At the same shop as the black eyelet shirtdress, I bought a 1960s wiggle dress! It was marked as 1950s but it looks to be more 1960s, based on sewing patterns from that era.
It’s not my usual silhouette, but it was a perfect fit so I couldn’t pass it by! I usually avoid tight-fitting skirts because I feel self-conscious about my thighs. I don’t mind having a curvy rear end, but I don’t like skirts tight across my legs. I felt like they would emphasize my large and rather long rear and call attention to the fact that I’m widest across the thighs. For these reasons, I thought that wiggle dresses were a ‘no’ for me no matter how sexy they are!
And then I met this red lace beauty. This was the last dress I tried on at the store and the one that made me go ‘wow!’ (I also thought, I know what I’m wearing to next year’s holiday parties!)
Sorry that I don’t have photos of it on me! I wanted to share the dress, but I felt like it deserved proper shoes and a proper photo shoot to show it off on a day with nice weather. I will get some photos of it on me at some point!
Here are some of the thoughtful design features:
Piping at the waistline. It’s such a little touch that’s easy to add to any dress pattern, but it looks great! I personally love the little fabric bows at the waist, placed at the end of each dart.
Gathered skirt instead of darted. This looks very flattering even though I didn’t think it would be! I thought it would look a bit like a sack, and draw attention to the width of my hips. Instead, the soft gathers help camouflage the gap between prominent thighs, and the whole look is quite elegant. Of course, after I bought this dress, I noticed that many vintage sewing patterns from that era have gathered wiggle skirts as well.
Hooks across the zipper for extra security. Once the hook at the waistline is done up, the zipper can’t go down lower than that. Modern patterns often ask you to sew a hook and eye at the top of the zipper, but rarely at the waistline too!
Look at the bodice – see how wide the darts are? That’s because dresses of this silhouette normally have both front darts and bust darts, but all of the fullness has been pivoted into the one centre dart. I think I might try to re-create this using McCalls 7743 as a starting point.
You absolutely have to wiggle when you walk, because there’s no slit in the skirt!
The lining is treated as an underlining in the skirt. Again this pattern, McCalls 7743, calls for the same lining treatment! Interesting. I thought that it was unusual to see in the sewing directions, but it turns out that store-bought dresses from that era were constructed that way as well.
Union made. I looked up the marking on the label “ILGWU” and found this link, again on the Vintage Fashion Guild site. My label does have the ‘AFL-CIO’ on it, so that means it was made after 1955. And if you compare my label to the examples on the site, mine matches the 1963-1974 design. (So I’m right, it is closer to 1964 than the mid-fifties!) It’s so cool that people are taking the time to catalogue this information online. I learned way more about this garment that I would have on my own!
(Note that the edges are also finished with pinking and straight stitching, nothing fancy. The pinking has frayed but the row of straight stitching has kept it from unraveling into the seamline.)
I’m surprised that this dress fit me, but when I measured it, it’s got a dramatic hourglass shape. 36″ bust, 27″ waist, and a generous 42″ across the hip. I’m about 32/33-26-38/39, so it’s got enough room to fit over my hips without being too big in the bustline, but wow! A modern dress might have a 36″ bust and 42″ hips but the waistline would be nowhere near as narrow. I can’t believe that the finished dress measures 15″ wider in the hips than the waistline. I was born in the wrong era for clothing, that’s for sure!
However, when I see wiggle dresses for sale on Etsy, they usually measure close to the same in the bust and hips. Perhaps this dress was designed to drape loosely over the lower half? (Probably.) I love it the way it is, and I’m going to try sewing dresses in similar silhouettes now that I know I can wear them!
Also, the hem measures the same as the hips, it doesn’t taper in at the hem like I would imagine wiggle dresses do. Interesting to know for reference!
The weirdest thing happened while I was ironing the fold marks out of this dress – when the steam dripped on the skirt, the red fabric turned crimson and shrank. The wet parts were smaller, causing the skirt to pucker around the drips. (I thought I’d ruined it!) Luckily as the steamed spots dried, the colour lightened back up, and the puckers relaxed. Not a good dress to spill water on!
What do you think: is it interesting to see how real sewn garments from the past were made? Do you look inside vintage garments to see how they were made?